Keighley Cougars fullback Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e has said he is going to make the most of playing alongside his teenage son this season.
Having joined the club on trial this winter, 17-year-old Phoenix Laulu-Togaga’e made history as he debuted alongside his father in the recent pre-season defeat to Bradford Bulls. Having impressed in that game and training the club were quick to hand him a one-year deal.
A return to rugby union could be on the cards for Phoenix at the end of this deal, so Quentin wants to make 2021 a year to remember for them both.
“I don’t think either of us really realised the importance of last Saturday’s game until afterwards,” said the proud dad.
“It was only then it started to sink in what we’d done and what we’d been able to achieve.
“I was really excited when he came on and I will cherish that memory forever. I never envisaged I’d be able to play rugby with my son at professional level, so it was a very special moment.
“Phoenix started off playing Rugby League but when Wakefield Scholarship didn’t re-sign him he ended up playing rugby union because of the school he goes to and ended up with the Leicester Tigers academy.
“When their academy season got cancelled this year there was an opportunity for him and train with us at Keighley and it’s all gone from there.
“He trained well, and the coach wanted him to get involved more. He then got picked to play based on that, so to now have a deal is pretty special.
“I am just thankful to Keighley for giving him this opportunity and to Leicester, who are happy for him to join us so he can play some rugby.
“Phoenix is currently doing his A-Levels and wants to go on and do economics at university. He has already been offered another deal at Leicester and a place at Loughborough University, which has a partnership with the Tigers so we just have to see what happens next.
“He just loves footie and dreams of playing professional rugby, whether that’s in league or union is up to him.
“So for now, the plan this year is just to make the most of playing alongside each other.
“At Keighley, we have big goals for the team so he has to fit in around that, but if he is good enough to play he’ll make the squad and if we manage to get a few more games together it will be awesome.
“We want to get promoted and if we can earn that together it will be even more special. Plus, Phoenix will be 18 by then so we could share a beer or two if it happens.”
Quentin also believes his son’s appearance at the club will improve his own game.
“Because he also plays fullback it’s easy for me to pass tips on to him and it’s good that I can now keep an eye on his development,” added QLT.
“He’s still young and got a lot to earn, but the environment we have at Keighley will help him do that as there are a lot of other people sharing their experience with him.
“Training with him is also keeping me on my toes. If I’m trying to teach my son what to do and then not doing it myself, then it contradicts my coaching of him.
“Hopefully he trains well and gets into the team again. You never know, one day he may take my spot and I’ll be watching from the sidelines.
“As much as I’ll be doing all I can to keep my spot, if I did lose it, who better to lose it to than my son?”
Elsewhere, fullback Alix Stephenson will be out of action for sometime after suffering a broken leg in the Bradford fixture.
BARROW RAIDERS coach Paul Crarey has spoken of his thanks to the club for putting them in the best possible position to start the season strongly.
Barrow returned to action on Saturday with a 20-6 defeat to Oldham in the Challenge Cup and Crarey is grateful for the extra preparation the club allowed them to have after such a long break.
“The extra time we’ve had together certainly gives us an advantage,” said Crarey.
“We got five good weeks of training in before Christmas and that was down to the board, who allowed us to do that.
“It did cost the club money because they had to bring everyone off furlough, but Steve (Neale – chairman) asked us what we wanted to do and we wanted to get back and bring the group together. We had some new senior players coming in that we wanted to gel.
“No one knew then that the season would get put back to May so we wanted to be ready for the Challenge Cup or whatever was thrown at us as early as possible
“Those five weeks were good for that but then had the blow that we were back to square one again in January. That shut us off again until February, but since then we have been preparing the best we can again.”
Meanwhile, Barrow Ladies, who were previously based at Barrow Island RLFC, have linked up with the Craven Park club to become Barrow Raiders Ladies.
The Ladies team see being aligned with a professional club as the next step in their progression to eventually become a Women’s Super League outfit.
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall can already see the benefits of the decision to run with a bigger than normal squad this year.
“Richard (Horne – coach) is quite happy with the squad he’s assembled for this year,” said Hall.
“We usually try and keep the numbers down, but we’ve gone bigger this year due to Covid in case we have any mishaps there and players have to isolate.
“We’re satisfied with what we’ve got at the minute, but we know that other players may become available during the season. The club has always backed us so we’re not averse to bringing someone in if we think they will benefit the group.
“One thing that I’ve noticed when I’ve seen the lads train is that they have all been very competitive in sessions and I think that is down to the size of the squad.
“You can see them all competing against others in their position and they’re wanting to beat them in whatever they do.
“It’s great to see and that’s what we want.
“Rich picks a side on form so they all know they have to impress in training to get selected for that first game.”
COVENTRY BEARS coach Richard Squires was keeping a close eye on the weekend’s Challenge Cup action as he continues to prepare his side to kick off the new campaign in May.
The Bears’ first two league games of the season see them host Barrow Raiders in round one, before travelling to West Wales Raiders a week later.
Both these clubs appeared in the Challenge Cup over the weekend, giving Squires the perfect opportunity to assess the challenge they will face when they finally return to action.
“I was keeping a keen eye on those games as it allowed us to see what Barrow and West Wales have to offer,” said Squires.
“It’s unfortunate that the two teams we play first will have had the Challenge Cup to get used to the new rules so they will have a bit of an advantage over us there.
“They’ll have had longer in training than us as well, which will affect those first games. They’ll have a bit more match fitness and will have had more time together as a squad to gel.
“But that was always a risk we ran by not being in the cup ourselves.
WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman has found a new way of keeping a close eye on progress in training.
Speaking in a recent Q&A session on Facebook, the former halfback revealed that some of the very latest technology has been employed to make sure he gets as much information as possible after training sessions.
“At the minute we have the use of a drone that has been shooting a bit of footage for social media content,” said Thorman.
“But we’re also using the drone at times to analyse training. I have watched some of the stuff we have shot and they (drones) are brilliant as a learning tool.
“The footage that you get from the drone is better than anything else when you get that kind of perspective and angle.
“The thing it teaches the players is that there is no hiding place.
“We have got enough essential staff in not to really miss a thing, but unfortunately we do sometimes. The drone doesn’t – it doesn’t miss a beat.
“We are currently not allowed team meetings, but as we progress and navigate our way through Covid, lockdown changes and guidelines change from the RFL, then we will be able to show more and more of this footage and the players will learn to appreciate it from a coaching and playing perspective so its a really good tool.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS coach Aaron Wood believes the added exposure the club got over the weekend, could go some way to them achieving one of their major aims this year.
The Raiders’ Challenge Cup tie against Widnes Vikings was shown live on BBC Sport and iPlayer, giving them the chance to show the wider Rugby League population that they are determined to show an improvement on previous seasons.
“The buzz in this area is unbelievable at the minute – it’s probably the best it’s ever been,” said Wood.
“People keep saying they can’t wait to watch the game again and the community has brought in to what we’re trying to do.
“You always have the keyboard warriors that sit there and are quick to judge teams without even understanding them or asking questions to the people behind the scenes.
“It’s not easy running a club and finding the right team, players, coaches, ground, but some fans take that a bit personally at times.
“But this year we want to prove people wrong – that’s our main goal. We want to shock people and make them think, “Wow, they do deserve to be in the competition, they’re building and promoting the game.”
“That’s all we can ask for. We want to earn and gain respect and being on BBC on Saturday can hopefully help us start to do that.”
LONDON SKOLARS coach Jermaine Coleman has confirmed the club are currently taking a look at several trialists from local rugby union side London Scottish.
The union outfit is currently taking a 12-month break from the game’s Championship competition due to the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving a number of players looking for opportunities to play elsewhere.
“Rugby union has probably been hit harder than Rugby League has in terms of what the pay their players and where they’re struggling,” said Coleman.
“So a few guys that have come up from Scottish to train, on trial, with us.
“One of them is a halfback and looks fairly handy, he just needs to get to know the game a little bit better.
“We will see a bit more from him as training develops but he looks very good.”
While they offer potential new signings for the club, one old face has returned to New River Stadium ahead of the new season.
Kameron Pearce-Paul, who played in both of the Skolars’ games in 2020 has signed a new deal with the club.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS have added some local talent to their squad after handing a contract to winger Dafydd Jones.
The 25-year-old, who has previously featured for the club’s A team, has been training with Anthony Murray’s squad during pre-season and has impressed enough to earn a deal.
Jones has also been involved with the academy systems at Salford Red Devils and Halifax Panthers over the last couple of years, has also earned caps for Wales Students and has represented North Wales Origin.
“I’m over the moon and looking forward to the season ahead,” said Jones
“I started playing Rugby League with Crusaders A so it’s nice to be back here.
“I’m here to test myself, give it a go and see where it goes from there really. Working hard and getting my fitness back are my priorities.
“Muzza will hopefully see what I need to work on and then we’ll go from there.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS winger Lee Registe has said coach Matt Calland was a big factor in him joining the club ahead of this season.
The ex-Rochdale Mayfield player also featured at Halifax Reserves, as well as Doncaster before joining the Hornets. He is also a former student at club partners Hopwood Hall College, so has many past links with the Hornets head coach.
“Something that got me excited about coming to Hornets is Matt,” the 23-year-old told a club Q&A.
“I have trained with Matt a lot over the years. I have been with him at college and played at Mayfield under him so it’s good to be under him again at a good club.
“I have always said he’s one of the best coaches that I’ve been under. He’s very good at getting the best out of his players.
“He knows what to do, he knows what makes you tick and if he sees your head going, he knows how to get you back in there and switched on.”
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton has said he will look at the situation next month as he aims to get some vital game time for his players ahead of a tough opening few weeks of the season.
The opening month of the new season sees the South Leeds club host Workington Town, Barrow Raiders and Rochdale Hornets, as well as travelling to North Wales Crusaders and Keighley Cougars.
“We’ve got a tough start to the season so we’re going to be straight into it come May 8,” said Thornton.
“There are some really tough games in that opening four or five weeks.
“We will progress as games are played and we’re hoping to get some friendlies arranged but there are some limitations on that.
“We’ll have a look at that in April, but we’re hoping to get a game or two under our belts before we kick-off.”
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